Netanyahu Vows to Continue War Amid Airstrike Condemnation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war against Hamas amid international condemnation of an airstrike that killed dozens of Palestinians in Rafah on Sunday.

At least 45 people were killed, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, while hundreds more were treated for severe burns, fractures and shrapnel wounds.

Speaking in the Israeli parliament, Netanyahu said the attack was a “tragic mishap” but added: “I have no intention of ending the war before all objectives have been achieved.”

He said it was vital that Israel take “every possible precaution” to protect civilians and insisted that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were making their “best efforts not to harm those not involved” in the conflict.

The speech was interrupted by occasional boos from relatives of hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack, some of whom have criticized the prime minister for failing to reach an agreement for the return of their loved ones.

“In Rafah we already evacuated around a million non-combatant residents and, despite our utmost efforts not to harm the non-combatants, unfortunately something went tragically wrong,” Netanyahu insisted.

“We are investigating the incident and will reach conclusions because that is our policy.”

International organizations have united in condemning the attack, and the EU insists that Israel respect a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last week to stop the attacks on Rafah. The bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, called Sunday’s strike “horrifying.”

Despite the ICJ ruling, Israel has committed to proceeding with the invasion of Rafah, and officials insist that the ruling leaves room for the attack to comply with international law.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk said the attack suggested there had been “no apparent change in the methods and means of warfare used by Israel that have already led to so many civilian deaths”.

Israel launched Sunday’s Rafah attack hours after Hamas’ first missile attack on Tel Aviv in several months.

IDF officials said the attack on Rafah had killed two senior Hamas commanders and that they were investigating civilian deaths in the area.

But the Palestinian Red Crescent said the airstrike had targeted tents for displaced people near a U.N. facility in Tal al-Sultan, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) northwest of central Rafah. .

Videos from the scene in the Tal al-Sultan area on Sunday night showed a large explosion and intense fires.

Graphic images showed several structures on fire alongside a banner reading “Kuwaiti Peace Camp ‘1’,” as well as first responders and bystanders carrying several bodies.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Monday that one of its facilities had received at least 28 deaths, including women and children, following the strike.

He said he had treated another 180 wounded Palestinians, most suffering serious shrapnel wounds, fractures, traumatic injuries and burns.

MSF rejected Israeli reports that the strike had been accurate, saying that “the attack on a populated field in the so-called ‘safe zone’ in Rafah shows the complete disregard for the lives of civilians in Gaza.”

The United States called the images “heartbreaking” but insisted Israel had the right to defend itself.

“Israel has the right to pursue Hamas, and we understand that this attack killed two senior Hamas terrorists who are responsible for attacks against Israeli civilians,” a White House national security spokesman said.

But they admitted that “Israel must take all possible precautions to protect civilians.”

Israeli officials had spent much of Monday struggling to figure out what went wrong in Rafah. How did a “precision strike” using specialized munitions with “reduced warheads” result in a firestorm that killed dozens and injured scores?

Following last week’s ICJ ruling, which ordered Israel to stop any operations in the Rafah area that could inflict further harm on the Palestinian population, Israel knows that the eyes of the world are on it. He is under enormous pressure to explain his actions.

He says the operation was based on intelligence and it appears that both Hamas figures were killed.

But the presence of a large number of civilians and, apparently, a significant amount of flammable material, raises many questions about how this incident was planned and executed.

With senior military officials, including Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer Yerushalmi, the IDF’s attorney general, promising a thorough investigation, we can expect some sort of more detailed explanation to arrive very soon.

But whether this marks a turning point in the campaign is another question.

Netanyahu remains committed to what he calls a “total victory” in Rafah, so there is no sign that Sunday’s disaster will change his mind.

Despite last night’s gruesome scenes, Israeli ground forces still appear to be acting with some caution as they approach the city of Rafah itself.

So far their operations have not resulted in a bloodbath.

But that is exactly what last night’s airstrike achieved, dealing another blow to Israel’s already battered image and undermining its reasons for moving forward.

Israel’s military campaign in Gaza began after Hamas gunmen attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking another 252 back to Gaza as hostages.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have died in the war since then, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

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